In a 2004 VIBE magazine interview, the guys behind hip-hop magazine ego trip and VH1 gems like The (White) Rapper Show declared race the new pornography. Pornography, they said, has been mainstreamed to the point where Jenna Jameson is a household name—but race is still an uncomfortable subject. The intersection of the two topics, then, is bound to be explosive.
The truth is, most people have trouble separating fantasy from reality when it comes to tasting the rainbow, as it were. My elite university sees itself as a bastion of progress and liberalism. The admissions office spares no expense finding and maintaining talented students of color from across the globe. And then they get here and find out from girl at a party, made honest by alcohol and desire, that she’s never slept with a black guy (and that’s often all they do—sleep together). Or that his black mother would lose her shit if he brought home a white girl and there’s no way they’d be able to get married in his church.
And then there are girls like me, who are told they’re hot “for a black girl.” My sophomore year, a white Mexican from L.A. was hell-bent on getting me into his bed, so turned on was by meeting, for the first time, “a black girl that was pretty and as smart as he was.” Needless to say, that sent me running faster than all the chupacabras in Oaxaca.
Mollena Williams’ “BDSM and Playing With Race” from Cleis Press’ Best Sex Writing 2010 brings complexities of being the hot black girl into the dungeon. An educator and member of the BDSM community, Williams details her initial engagement with submission and then race play.
Williams is a submissive who enjoys scenes in which she is essentially being punished for being black—whether she’s playing a slave or an upper-class black woman looking down on a cholo. Williams didn’t always feel good about her interest in race play. “Having a sexual fantasy that makes you feel shitty about yourself is miserable,” she says, “but you have to depathologize it so you understand it’s okay to have these desires.”
Like most in the BDSM scene, Williams follows careful rules of consent, but she still relies on her gut to determine what a potential partner’s motivations are: Strangers who offer to be her top in race play scenes are held at arm’s length for some time because she finds it harder to tell where fantasy ends and reality begins for them.
Assessing intentions is key—in BDSM, and the broader world as well. When approaching or being approached by those of a different race, we need to be mindful of motivation. The fact remains that any situation, romantic, platonic, or purely sexual, can be seen from the perspective of race. Williams recalls having a white woman in a play space tell her how much it upset her to see Williams in a race play scene. In fact, the scene had nothing to do with race, but was seen as racially charged because her top was a white man.
Williams’ experiences exist on a sort of fringe—she doesn’t do race play exclusively, and she definitely doesn’t promote it. For her, weathering abuse as a bottom frees her from anger and pain she’s experienced in real-world engagements with race.
Resnick’s “Man and Woman: A Study in Black and White,” featured in Cleis Press’ Best Fetish Erotica, tells the story of white woman with a “fetish for blacks” who sleeps with the biggest, most beautiful black man she can find. Following the Freudian model, the female character—who remains unnamed—traces her desire for “Negroid men” back to being ignored and verbally harassed by black guys in high school. She is happily submissive, more than willing to bend to her lover’s somewhat sadistic whims.
Resnick does not challenge stereotypes—rather, the characters live inside them. True, there is a passing reference to that fact that fear of miscegenation is in large part a fear of how sexually potent black men might be if given access to white female bodies, but that’s where the analysis stops. While it’s fiction, even the author senses how dangerous this sort of interaction might be in real life, describing the woman’s attraction with the language of sickness, obsession, and insanity.
After having sex, the woman turns on her favorite interracial porn and watches Ray Victory, a black male performer, admiring his potency. Her subsequent epiphany that black men are sexual agents and are “holding all history’s cards,” seems more a device to ease white guilt than a revelation. Sexual prowess doesn’t trump the power dynamics that have been in place for centuries.
Resnick, however, is quick to separate real-life repercussions from artistic license. “I hope to reach people and engage them,” she says. “It’s not an agenda, it’s an exploration. I think it’s the job of any artist to speak the truth and not judge the id. It’s a fictional story and art should not be censored. There’s a moral ambiguity there.”
This moral ambiguity is less clear to someone who’s realized too late that the person they’ve been with is someone who is living out a fantasy without their knowing, but Resnick insists, “It’s wrong to deny there’s all sorts of wacky stuff going on in the id.”
But to say that no one should pass judgment on her characters? We all pass judgment from the prism of our own perspective. If it is valid for Resnick, a white woman, to present interracial fantasies, then it is just as valid for those who live the reality to have a response to them—for better or worse.
Still, according to Cleis Press Co-Publisher Felice Newman, “Many people’s most intensely held fantasies center around controversial themes—like fetishizing race or eroticizing power and violence, as in rape fantasies. These are real parts of what makes human sexuality so complicated and so varied. And as much as these themes disturb people, they also compel them. Sometimes the most uncomfortable images and fantasies are what turn us on the most.”
Fantasy needs some rules, especially when it has such real-world currency. There is no safe word for your Jewish classmate asking you out, then “un-asking” you the next day because his friends don’t approve.
We all need to be mindful of our own preconceived notions and stereotypes. I caution my white friend about leaving the party with the black guy she’s had her eye on, knowing he’s probably heard that white girls will do anything you ask them do and deep throat besides, all the while knowing that if and when she leaves, the white guy that comes up to me had to fortify his courage with Jack because he expects me to be rude (but worth it, once he gets me into bed).
To purchase the Naked Reader Book Club selections, visit the Naked Reader Book Club Store.
|The Naked Reader Book Club||Selections for April 2010|
|Best Sex Writing 2010 Edited by Rachel Kramer Bussel||Best Fetish Erotica Edited by Cara Bruce|